World-First Human Spinal Cord Implants to Help Paralyzed People Walk Again

Israeli scientists had just created spinal cord implants that could be a “scientific breakthrough” for paralysis on mice, and that less than three years from now could make paralyzed people walk again.

A large team from Tel Aviv University engineered spinal cord tissue from human cells, and implanted them into 15 mice with long-term paralysis, whereby 12 then walked normally.

According to NewsBreak, the world-first 3D implants had an 80% success rate in restoring the ability to walk in paralyzed mice in the laboratory.

The technology envisions to produce personalized spinal cord implants for every paralyzed person, and to regenerate damaged tissue with no risk of rejection.

The researchers reported in newly peer-reviewed research published in the journal Advanced Science that transforming tissue samples into functioning spinal cord implants would be possible through mimicking the embryonic development of the spinal cord in a 3D dynamic biomaterial-based microenvironment.

Hope for paralyzed people to walk again

“If this works in humans, and we believe that it will, it can offer all paralyzed people hope that they may walk again,” Prof. Tal Dvir’s research team at the Sagol Center for Regenerative Biotechnology told The Times of Israel.

The lead researcher added that discussions regarding clinical trials have been opened with the America’s Food and Drug Administration.

The team noted that the technology is the “first instance in the world in which implanted engineered human tissues have generated recovery in an animal model for long-term chronic paralysis – which is the most relevant model for paralysis treatments in humans.”

The goal is to deploy this in humans by growing a unique spine for each patient using cells from their own body.

Dvir predicted this will “enable regeneration of the damaged tissue with no risk of rejection,” and suppressing the immune systems of recipients, as happens in the case of many transplants, will not be necessary.

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Treatment for long term paralysis

Engineering human-based stem cells is not a first in most science labs, but growing pieces of actual spine from human cells, and transplanting them, is a first, according to Dvir.

More importantly, a unique factor in his research is its treatment for long-paralyzed animals, other than newly paralyzed animals.

The scientists said that they used both newly and long-paralyzed mice for the experiment, but succeeded on helping both. Thus,they believe that the same success would happen on humans that have been paralyzed for quite some time.

In addition, using human implants on the mice, not mice implants, “means we’re not going back to the beginning of research to move over to humans,” he noted

“Rather, we know how to prepare the implants for humans, which is what makes us optimistic we will move quickly to clinical trials.”

The team, which includes Lior Wertheim, Dr. Reuven Edri, and Dr. Yona Goldshmit, believes that the new method could also apply in range of other diseases and injuries, such as Parkinson’s disease, brain trauma, myocardial infarction, and age-related macular degeneration.

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